Edward Snowden got into trouble with the US government because of it. Facebook has been collecting tons of it. But what exactly is data?
It’s difficult to understand its importance when you can’t see it. Lucky for us, the Big Bang Data exhibition, happening at the ArtScience Museum from 21 May to 16 October, aims to put it all into perspective so you can better understand that intangible thing called data.
Singapore is its fifth city stop after the exhibition spent some time in Barcelona, Madrid, London, and Buenos Aires. And you’ll be a fool to miss out on it before it moves on to its next destination in a bid to make the world a little more data-aware.
When you step into the exhibition, this will be the first thing to greet you - a giant flickering screen. It might look like static but when you go closer, you will see that it’s made up of numbers. What do they represent? Just like how an artist uses paint, these numbers are the texture of data, and the first step of the exhibition at visualising data.
World’s first documented infographic
Way before computers happened, this was how people attempted to understand data. A physician by the name of John Snow (no Game of Thrones jokes, please) plotted deaths linked to the cholera outbreak on a map. As a result, he discovered that the disease was transmitted by unclean water instead of air due to their proximity to a water pump.
Infographics - breaking concepts down for people since 1854.
Black Shoals; Dark Matter
Those squiggly lines inching their way across are not the bacteria living in your gut, but a real-time visualisation of the global financial markets, fed by live data from the world’s stock markets. You can look at the stats on the monitor, or if you’re anything like us, prefer the stock-constellations.
24 Hrs in Photos
This installation is literally a photo dump. Images uploaded to Flickr over a period of 24 hours in 2011 were collected and printed. This exhibit aims to show just how public your private moments are when uploaded to the internet. So public it could even end up in a random exhibition traveling the world.
This display of globes is an ongoing attempt to visualise data. Out of the 1000 pieces created, only 15 are on display in the ArtScience Museum.
The white globe reflects the number of patents held by each country - the bigger the name of the country, the more patents it holds. Another interesting globe you should try to spot is the one of each country's population in jail. Shouldn't be too difficult to figure out which coloured globe it is.
Nope, these aren't the Faceless Men of Braavos, servants of the Many-Faced God. These are faces reconstructed from the DNA gathered from discarded cigarette butts and wads of gum. Kind of creepy how much data about yourself you give away without even realising it, huh?
On the opposite side, you'll find the "face masks" an artist has created to prevent face recognition software from reading your faces. Face recognition software is everywhere, from being embedded in your phone's camera to being omnipresent at border controls.
As cumbersome as they look, the face-defence mask works as our phone's camera failed to recognise the faces, even though it marked out the artificial ones in Stranger Visions (as indicated by the yellow boxes around the faces).